There are many things in Taiwan that are extremely convenient and well thought out. This week I've decided to write a few entries focusing on these. Today: Convenience Stores.
So what makes these stores so great?
1) Easy to Find - Taiwan has the highest concentration of these stores in Asia and maybe even the world: 7-11, FamilyMart, Hi-Life and OK Mart. They are EVERYWHERE. You cannot walk very far in the city before running into one. In some cases, there may even be two 7-11s and a FamilyMart all on the same street corner. For example from the train station in my neighborhood to my house, I pass three Hi-Lifes, two 7-11s, and a FamilyMart all within a 4 block walk. Plenty of options for buying snacks and beverages on my way home.
2) Buy Some Grub - Besides the usual soda, tea, potato chips, and ramen there are also many meal options. Salads, curry, pasta, cold noodles with sesame sauce, soups, sandwiches, hamburgers, sushi, fried rice, and lunch boxes. Most are pretty delicious and they change what's being offered seasonally, which keeps up variety.
3) Pay Those Bills - with so many stores around the city it's very easy to pay your bills. Anything from electric, parking tickets, and college tuition can be paid. Simply bring in your bill and money and they take care of the rest. Every month I can pay my phone bill in 2 minutes on the way to work. No time on the internet, envelope, and stamp, or check writing.
4) Take Out the trash - Besides buying the city certified garbage bags here, you can also take some of your recycling to 7-11. Things like glass and plastic bottles are accepted and some you may get some small amounts of money for bringing in. It's great after a big party when there are lots of cans or bottles laying around, or if you just fall behind.
5) Event tickets - Want to go to an expo in town? Is Your favorite band playing next month? You can purchase your event ticket at the ibon kiosk machine in any store. Find your event and select tickets, the machine prints out a receipt, take this to the counter to pay, and receive your tickets! You can also buy train tickets, print documents out, and buy minutes for your phone (if you do pay-as-you-go) on this machine.
6) Packages - Most buildings here don't have a doorman, so sometimes getting a package delivered to the right apartment may be a problem, especially if you're always at work or school. Fortunately, when ordering many places offer the option to have it delivered to your local shop. Stop by 7-11 on the way home and get those t-shirts you ordered off the internet.
So as you can see life can be pretty easy. In one stop you can buy those tickets, pay your bills, take out some excess garbage, and buy a Slurpee and seaweed potato chips to munch on. One place for everything.